Annual awards from American Public Transportation Association recognize CTA’s investment in modernization and service improvements; exceptional performance during pandemic, and Carter’s decades of leadership
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has received the highest honors in the North American public transportation industry: the Outstanding Public Transportation System Award and the Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award, from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
The system award recognizes the CTA’s unprecedented modernization and efforts in 2020 to provide service during the Covid-19 pandemic, which impacted every transit agency in the nation. The Manager Award recognizes the leadership and career accomplishments of CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr., a 30 -year transit veteran who guided the CTA through unprecedented circumstances, and ensured that the CTA was the only major U.S. transit agency to keep its full service schedule throughout the pandemic.
“Few transit agencies in the United States have made more progress in modernizing their system over the past several years than the Chicago Transit Authority,” APTA said in a press release announcing the awards, which honor organizations and leaders in public transit across the country “who have demonstrated significant leadership, are outstanding role models of excellence, and whose accomplishments and innovations have greatly advanced public transportation.”
APTA represents more than 1,500 public- and private-sector organizations in North America, and more than 90 percent of people using transit in the U.S. and Canada ride APTA member systems. This is the first time in APTA history that one agency has received the top awards for outstanding system and manager in the same year. It also marks the first time since the inception of APTA’s award program in 1983 that the CTA has earned the two top awards.
“It is an honor to receive these awards, because they are a recognition of the hard work and dedication our employees showed throughout the pandemic,” Carter said. “Everyone at this agency understands the critical role the CTA plays in keeping our city moving, and they demonstrate their commitment every day.”
"Throughout the pandemic, the CTA under President Carter's leadership worked incredibly hard to ensure our essential workers remained connected to its reliable and affordable service," said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. "Even while under immense pressure, President Carter and the CTA have showed up for our residents time and time again—all while leading an unprecedented mission to modernize our stations, vehicles and technologies. I want to congratulate President Carter and the CTA for receiving these awards and am beyond excited to see what they accomplish next."
When the pandemic led to a statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020, the CTA maintained its full-service schedule, keeping buses and trains running even though ridership saw an unprecedented drop of as much as 80 percent. The state executive order at the time designated a number of services – including public transit – as essential.
Last year, CTA surveyed customers who used transit in the first few months of the pandemic. The findings confirmed the essential nature of public transit:
- 19% of respondents riding during the stay-at-home order were healthcare/medical workers
- 26% of respondents reported that they would not have been able to reach their workplace without CTA
- 62% of respondents reported using CTA to access food and other essential items during the stay-at-home order
“When Chicago needed us the most, we did everything we could to provide them the service they relied on,” Carter said. “Our essential workers were moving the City’s essential workers, and it was a responsibility we took very seriously.”
Throughout the pandemic, the CTA worked to address a host of issues and challenges to ensure a healthy and comfortable commute for customers. The agency augmented its already industry-leading cleaning regimen to include new technologies, such as electromist sprayers; established capacity limits on vehicles to promote social distancing; implemented rear-door boarding on buses for several weeks; and provided free facemasks on buses and at rail stations.
To promote customer comfort, CTA created a new ridership dashboard showing bus and train capacity to further assist customers making decisions about the best times to commute. The agency also created Travel Healthy Kits—comprising a reusable cloth facemask, hand sanitizer and health-travel tips—and distributed more than 30,000 of them throughout the CTA system.